Today, one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in the course of a lifetime, but you don’t have to become a statistic.
Carilion Clinic Dermatology and Mohs Surgery offers guidance on protecting your skin, as well as changes to watch for.
3 Ways to Keep Your Skin Healthy
1. Limit time in the sun.
- Wear photoprotective clothing (long sleeves, hat, sunglasses)
- Seek shade
- Apply sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 daily and reapply liberally
2. Check your skin regularly for new or changing moles. Use this interactive gallery from the American Cancer Society as a guide.
3. Have regular skin cancer screenings with your primary health care provider or dermatologist.
You are at higher risk for skin cancer and should take extra precautions if:
You have a history of skin cancer in your family
You have red hair or fair skin
Your skin burns easily
In addition, you should see your dermatologist for a baseline skin exam if you have a history of tanning bed use or a lot of moles.
Essential summer gear includes long sleeves, hats and sunglasses in addition to SPF 30 sunscreen.
What Should You Look For?
There are three main types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma (the most serious form). According to Kyle Prickett, M.D., a specialist with Carilion Clinic Dermatology and Mohs Surgery, each has different signs and symptoms.
1. Basal cell carcinoma:
- Pearly or translucent bump on the skin
- Flat, flesh-colored lesion appearing anywhere on the body
- A suspicious lesion is often described as a "bubble in the skin"
2. Squamous cell carcinoma:
- Hard, red nodule on face, lips, ears, neck, hands and/or arms
- Flat lesion with scaly surface
- Mole that changes in color, size, shape or texture
- Skin lesion with irregular borders
- Pre-existing skin lesion that grows
- Large brown spot with irregularly placed splotchy areas of lighter or darker color
Dr. Prickett notes other signs to watch for:
- Any growth or change in a pre-existing mole
- Moles that are bleeding or enlarging
- An "acne bump" that does not resolve in one month
“Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer that can be found in the human body,” says Dr. Prickett. “It often happens on the head, neck, hands and legs—all areas that receive extensive sun damage over the years. These are also areas where it is crucial to ensure that the cancer is completely removed while also conserving normal healthy cells. Mohs surgery allows us to achieve both of these goals."
Dr. Prickett adds that Mohs surgeons receive extensive training in surgical reconstruction to ensure the most positive cosmetic outcome.
Not all skin cancers require Mohs surgery. If you have a biopsy-proven skin cancer, discuss with your primary care provider or dermatologist if referral to Mohs surgery would be appropriate.
Learn more about Carilion Clinic Dermatology and Mohs Surgery providers and locations.